Top 5 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold


When it comes to the world of art, certain paintings command staggering prices that represent the pinnacle of human spending power. These masterpieces are highly cherished by investors, collectors, and art lovers alike. The top five most expensive artworks ever sold are a testament to the enduring value of art. Ranging from the masterful brushstrokes of Leonardo da Vinci to the bold color fields of Mark Rothko, these works hold more capital than some banks. In this article, we will take a closer look at the most expensive artworks ever sold, examining the artists, the works, and the prices they fetched at auction or private sale. Whether you are a seasoned collector or simply an art enthusiast, read on to discover the most valuable paintings in history.


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“No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” by Mark Rothko | $186 Million

In 2014, Rothko’s painting was sold for an astounding $186 million at Christie’s auction house. This masterpiece, along with de Kooning’s work, is widely regarded as an essential example of abstract expressionism. The painting’s stunning composition, which features three large rectangles of color, is credited for its remarkable sale price. Currently, the artwork is held in the prestigious collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and is recognized as one of the world’s most valuable works of art.

Mark Rothko’s artistic vision centered on color as the primary means of conveying emotions. His goal was to create paintings that would elicit a sense of transcendence and spiritual wonder in the viewer. This painting showcases three prominent rectangles of color: a deep violet at the top, a bright green in the middle, and a rich red at the bottom. The thick, layered brushstrokes of these colors produce a sense of depth and motion. The absence of clear boundaries between the rectangles creates the impression that the colors are blending and fusing together, further enhancing the work’s ethereal and otherworldly atmosphere.

"No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)" by Mark Rothko
“No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” by Mark Rothko

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“When Will You Marry?” by Paul Gauguin | $210 Million

Painted by the renowned French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin in 1892, this artwork is widely regarded as one of the artist’s most significant works and a pivotal piece in the evolution of his mature style. In 2014, the painting was sold for an astonishing $210 million in a private sale and is currently a prized possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The painting portrays a young Tahitian girl seated on the ground, holding a flower in her hand. She is adorned in traditional Tahitian attire, and her face is adorned with a flower lei. Behind her is a lush tropical landscape with palm trees and a vivid blue sky. The girl’s gaze is averted to the side, evoking a feeling of introspection and detachment.

Gauguin’s fascination with Tahitian culture and its people is evident in this work, as he saw the island as an Edenic paradise, free from the perils of modernization and industrialization. “When Will You Marry?” reflects this perception, presenting Tahiti as a place of natural beauty and simplicity.

"Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)" by Paul Gauguin
“Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)” by Paul Gauguin

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“The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne | $250 Million

“Card Players” is a series of paintings created by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne between 1890 and 1895. These artworks depict groups of men playing cards, and they are considered some of Cézanne’s most important works. The painting which sold for $250 million is called “The Card Players” and was created by the artist between 1892-93. This artwork is considered one of the most significant paintings of the Post-Impressionist movement and is known for its bold colors and thick brushstrokes. It was sold to the Royal Family of Qatar in 2011 by the Greek shipping tycoon, George Embiricos and it is one of the most expensive painting ever sold.

The “Card Players” series is notable for reflecting Cézanne’s interest in capturing the everyday life of rural Provence. The men featured in these paintings are peasant farmers, and their relaxed and natural poses reflect the simplicity and authenticity of rural life. The men appear in varying poses and expressions, with some lost in thought, while others look directly at the viewer. The composition is meticulously balanced, with the men and the table occupying the majority of the painting’s space.

"Card Players" by Paul Cézanne
“Card Players” by Paul Cézanne

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“Interchange” by Willem de Kooning | $300 Million

The painting was sold for $300 million at a private sale in 2015, and is considered one of Willem de Kooning’s masterpieces from his abstract expressionist period. De Kooning, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, is highly sought after by collectors, and the painting’s large size and striking composition undoubtedly helped drive its high sale price.

The artwork depicts a human figure in a highly abstracted form. The figure is rendered in broad, gestural brushstrokes that capture the play of light and shadow. The figure’s face is only suggested, and the body is fragmented, with different parts appearing to be in various stages of movement.

De Kooning’s use of abstraction in “Interchange” is a significant aspect of the painting’s importance, as it allowed him to create a sense of movement and energy. The artwork is also notable because it marked a shift in de Kooning’s work towards a more figurative style. Prior to “Interchange,” de Kooning was primarily known for his abstract expressionist work. However, with this painting, he began incorporating more recognizable figures into his pieces, which would become a defining feature of his style.

"Interchange" by Willem de Kooning
“Interchange” by Willem de Kooning

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“Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci | $450 Million

“Salvator Mundi” is a painting attributed to the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci, believed to have been completed in the early 1500s. The painting depicts Jesus Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and making the sign of blessing with his right. The painting is currently in the collection of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and is considered to be one of the most important works of art in the world.

In 2017, “Salvator Mundi” was sold at Christie’s for $450.3 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction. This sale generated much attention and debate, but it only confirms the painting’s importance and value, both as an artwork and as cultural heritage.

The painting had long been regarded as a copy of a lost original by Leonardo, until it was reattributed to the artist himself in the 2000s. This determination came about through a meticulous restoration process, which uncovered the artist’s technique and brushstrokes. The artwork also underwent scientific testing, including infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence analysis, which further confirmed its authenticity.

One of the most striking aspects of “Salvator Mundi” is the level of realism and detail that Leonardo achieved. The face of Christ is portrayed with a serene expression, and the eyes are particularly striking, with a gaze that seems to follow the viewer around the room. The artwork also features intricate details in the folds of the robes, the beads of the necklace, and the hair, all executed with great skill and precision. This masterpiece is also significant because it is one of fewer than 20 surviving paintings that can be confidently attributed to Leonardo.

"Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci
“Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci

These extraordinary paintings are true world treasures, highly prized not only for their immense monetary value, but also for their profound historical and cultural significance. Having survived the test of time, these masterpieces are widely regarded as among the most outstanding examples of their respective art movements, exemplifying the very highest standards of artistic excellence and innovation. Through their mastery of color, composition, and technique, these works invite us to contemplate the beauty and complexity of the world around us, sparking our imaginations and enriching our lives with their sublime beauty and profound insights.

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